Have you ever had to interview prospective tenants for a share-house situation? I have. It was eye-opening to say the least. I have share housed with about fourteen different people in at least as many houses and as I am still friends with all but one of them I consider myself to be somewhat of a connoisseur. Perhaps one of my favourite housemates was a chatty and vivacious young man by the name of Josh Donellan.
What makes a housemate ‘favourite’? Well, being able to borrow clothes and make up for one, but while Josh has a certain panache and style, we were not the same shoe size or complexion (Actually, I doubt he has any makeup at all unless its face paint) and so that was not a factor in my decision to bestow upon him the glorious ‘f’ word. Sharing books- now that is something special. Josh answered our housemate wanted add and showed up on time with a polite smile and a burning curiosity to learn as much about us as we wanted to learn about him.
I grilled him for home-life details “Do you recycle? Can you wash up? Do you use all the hot water and then leave wet towels on the floor? Do you do lots of drugs and then go wandering off for weeks leaving behind a pile of unpaid bills and a suspicious stain on the carpet? Do you turn on the TV as soon as you get home and then leave it on even as you sit in another room doing something else which also uses up electricity and fills our house with static? Do you have friends? Do you insist on always inviting your friends to our house even though they are total downers and eat all the snacks?”, but I never had the opportunity to be grilled back. There was no need.
Having answered all the above questions satisfactorily, he was granted a tour of our home. He saw my book shelf and hurried over, and as daylight turned to dusk we found ourselves carried away, speaking about stories and sharing stories until finally, soft summer darkness slipping in all around, we realised we had begun a shared story, and naming our first shared chapter ‘the tale of Ellena Street’ declared ourselves the best housemates ever. And we were. Together the three of us (yes, there was another housemate, but that is a story for another time) were the textbook definition of awesome share house. We went on many adventures together and became the heroes in a tale of youth and endless summers. We had music, and art and style and no one stole all the snacks and the towels were hung up to dry and the water was always hot and the stories... The stories have outlasted the seasons and to this day we are good friends.
The thing about Josh that I have failed to mention thus far is that he is great with kids. Like, crazy good. He works with young children for a living, and is motivated everyday to inspire and encourage the development of their young minds. Josh has this knack for taking the big concepts and unfolding them in such a way that the bigger picture is easily grasped, but better than that he can capture these grand ideas and lay them out upon a page for all to enjoy. No child left behind, Josh is probably the best, most engaging and inspiring teacher these kids will ever have the pleasure of being taught by. The other amazing thing is that he can translate this talent into writing- a format which enables many more to benefit from his skill.
Quirky, vibrant and joyful, his books draw praise and attention from all who read them. Invigorated by the success of his first book “A Beginners Guide To Dying In India” (CHECK IT OUT! It’s brilliant!) and inspired by his work with children, Josh went on to write a tale for younger readers. From his website:
Hello! You are reading this in order to determine whether or not this book will be of interest to you! Well, congratulations, you obviously have fabulous taste! Zeb and the Great Ruckus is a story about magic, music, fireworks, bewilderbeasts, clockwork birds and weaponised toffee. It has some funny bits, some scary bits, some sad bits, and a rather large bit about a cave-dwelling ruttersnarl which we would tell you about but we don’t want to give away the ending. If you like the sounds of any or all of the above, then this is the book for you! If you would rather read a complete history of European haberdashery, please consult your local book emporium.
I sent Josh an interview sheet, and he went well beyond the call of duty in his response.
He also had this to say:
When my first book came out, I had emails from people all over the world telling me that it had made them laugh, made them want to travel, helped them deal with the passing of a loved one. Touching the life of someone who lives on the other side of the world that you’ve never even met, you can’t put a price on that. With this book, I want to encourage a generation of children to pick up pens and paintbrushes and plectrums and start an artistic insurrection. That said, it’s a book for grown ups too. My other job is I work as a music journalist, so I’ve filled with heaps of obscure jazz and blues references that music nerds will love and lots of humour inspired by Roald Dahl and Calvin and Hobbes.
As both a teacher and writer, I don’t see my job as information transmission so much as soliciting a love of curiosity, investigation and imagination. I think we need to teach kids to have a love of exploration of the world through both logical and creative means. As Einstein famously said, ‘imagination is more important that knowledge’. I want a world where art and science high five each other on a regular basis instead of glowering at each other across the playground.
My first experience with Josh was a literary one, and for one lucky reader, your first experience of Josh will be literary too, for I have one signed first edition copy of Zeb and the Great Ruckus to giveaway. To enter, all you have to do is ‘like’ Milk Eyes on facebook and let me know about it by following the Rafflecopter link below:
For those of you not lucky enough to grab a copy through Milk Eyes, Zeb and the Great Ruckus is available for pre-order now (official release September 15) from Odyssey books: http://www.odysseybooks.com.
or from Amazon for people outside Australia:
Great-Ruckus-Josh-Donellan/dp/ 0987232533/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8& qid=1346282131&sr=8-1& keywords=zeb+and+the+great+ ruckus
You can meet the author at the book launch, which will be held at Black Cat Books on September 21st at 5pm.
Cause a RUCKUS!