We’re thrilled to see Gabrielle Bassett back at Just Write For Kids with her heartwarming debut picture book, Jack’s Best Day Ever! Gabrielle is here to share her inspiration – her amazing son – and her writing journey about her diverse and inclusive picture book that is absolutely bounding with energy, heart and triumph. Combined with vibrant illustrations by Annabelle Hale, the warmth just radiates from the pages. Thank you for this valuable story, Gabrielle! 🙂
About the Author
Since Gabrielle first met her son Jack she has been dreaming of writing this, her debut children’s book. Through Jack’s story, Gabrielle reminds us of the importance of friendship, acceptance and trying new things.
Gabrielle started her career as a Microbiologist. Through her work in an Australian University, Gabrielle leads programs of work around disability inclusion, Indigenous employment and female leadership within STEM.Gabrielle lives in Melbourne with her family, and Sadie their dog.
About the Illustrator
Graduating in 2017, Annabelle is an illustrator based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves drawing, dancing and spending time outdoors in nature.
Annabelle can be found at her website: Gallery – Annabelle Hale Illustration (annabelle-hale.com).
Author, scientist and mum, Gabrielle Bassett, shares her journey in creating her inclusive story, Jack’s Best Day Ever! …
Congratulations, Gabrielle, on the release of your amazing picture book, Jack’s Best Day Ever!
This is a beautiful tale of friendship between two unique individuals, each on their own journeys with a different disability and neurotype. What can you share about the characters in this book?
The main character, Jack is a bit of a walking encyclopedia in this story. Jack is a kind, unique, brave and loyal friend. He doesn’t like loud noises and loves eating peanut butter sandwiches all the time. He is extremely passionate about vehicles, – when a sports car goes by it really grabs his attention.
Jack’s best friend, Poh, pictured in a wheelchair, has been best friends with Jack for a long time. They eat lunch together and play together at school. Sometimes Jack prefers to play on his own and Poh is ok with that. In this story, together they zoom around the Zoo on the back of Poh’s wheelchair trying all the delicious foods that the animals eat.
Also in this story are Jack’s two sisters, Milly and Lila. They love Jack just the way his is and when something happens in the story where Jack needs to be brave, they are proud as punch of him.
What kinds of things does your own child have in common with Jack in the story? What would he want us to know about himself?
There are a lot of similarities about Jack in real life versus Jack in the story. He too, loves vehicles, loves creating things and loves his peanut butter sandwiches. He is extremely kind and is always helping other people.
Jack is neurodivergent and is sensitive to noise and sometimes prefers to be on his own when things get too noisy or overwhelming. When the real Jack is older, he would love to be a Digger driver and his favourite book is Construction.
Principal of St Paul’s, Timothy Hemphill, describes the book as “A beautiful tribute to Jack”.
“Jack is one of the real characters at St Paul’s; a born conversationalist. Interacting with Jack is always a joy for me and for everyone around him. St Paul’s is fully committed to celebrating diversity and differences with respect, kindness and fun and Gabrielle’s book joyfully does the same. I have no doubt that many children and families will fall in love with this story.”
The story is written in a light-hearted, playful way that highlights Jack’s individual traits, challenges and triumphs. What did you enjoy most about the writing process? How would you describe your style?
I had always dreamed of writing a children’s book and lockdown was the catalyst to kick-start that dream. At the time, I was finishing a large project at work around disability inclusion, yet at home my children were having challenges around reading, remote learning, and social interactions. I wanted to create a book that could perhaps help with this. I also realised during this time that there was no diversity on our own bookshelf at home.
At first, I could not stop writing. A cathartic process perhaps. I just loved writing this story and going on the fun trip around the Zoo with the characters. However, the book was far too long for a children’s picture book. Once I had engaged a publisher, I worked closely with the editor to refine it. I had to really think about what I was trying to achieve with the book and who the intended audience would be.
I wanted to show the main character, Jack, as the loving, friendly and helpful boy that he is. Yes, he thinks about the world differently but that is also his superpower. He regularly notices things that the rest of us don’t. He is also extremely creative and passionate about particular things.
This book has been written in a way that doesn’t say that this main character is neurodiverse. Instead, it joyfully shows the type of things that they love doing and why (i.e., flapping their hands when they are excited or covering their ears when things are too noisy). That way readers can just enjoy it as a fun story, or they can choose to ask why Jack is doing certain things.
The book presents with themes of friendship, bravery, animal facts and managing challenges like food aversion. What are the main themes you hope readers will identify with, and what do you hope they will benefit from after reading Jack’s Best Day Ever!?
This book has something for everyone to love. A lot of kids love certain foods or animals that appear in this book. I hope that readers see all the different characters as being wonderful friends and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to being a human. We are all different and that is what makes us unique and special.
The illustrations by Annabelle Hale are brilliantly matched to your story with their bright, colourful, inclusive and energetic presence. What was the collaborative process like working with her? What do you love most about her work?
The publisher, Woodslane Press, engaged the illustrator, Annabelle Hale, directly as they were already working with her on another book project. I reached out to her to introduce myself, however, we didn’t really collaborate with each other until after the book was finished. I think it is important to trust in the process and give an illustrator space to do what they do best – to interpret the words and create.
Annabelle did such a wonderful job of bringing Jack’s story to life in a fun, colourful and inclusive way. The lion page is my favourite, but many kids have told me they love many of the other pages too. The giraffes, the meerkats, the birthday party – all winning pages in their view.
It turns out that Annabelle and I live only a few blocks from each other in Melbourne, so we have since been able to visit kindergartens and schools, go to conferences, have a book launch, have coffee etc, which has been very special. She is an extremely very talented illustrator.
- What is your favourite pastime?
Pilates, reading, spending time with my family and friends, writing, and going for the odd occasional jog.
- What foods do you like and dislike the most?
Rocket is the only thing I can’t stand, but I love everything else. Pasta especially.
- What is your favourite zoo animal?
That is a tricky one. It is a tie between the Meerkats (I love how cheeky they are) and the penguins.
- What are your favourite children’s books?
Charlotte’s Web, Round the Twist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
- Name five words to describe yourself.
Kind, caring, inclusive, creative, messy
Anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your incredible work in the area of disability and diversity advocacy, or Jack’s Best Day Ever!?
I started my career as a Microbiologist. Later I hung up my white coat and started working in recruitment discovered I got great joy in finding other Scientists their dream jobs. Currently I work in an Australian University, leading programs of work around disability inclusion, Indigenous employment and female leadership within STEM.
Copies of Jack’s Best Day Ever can be purchased from Woodslane Press or all good bookstores.
Here are some stories and reviews of Jack’s book …
Thanks so much, Gabrielle! Jack really is a superhero! 😊
Jack’s Best Day Ever! can be purchased via Woodslane Press here and in all good bookstores.
Join in to have the BEST days with Gabrielle Bassett and her heartwarming picture book, Jack’s Best Day Ever!, exciting readers across the blogosphere!
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