I read this book in one sitting and enjoyed it to bits. I also loved the illustrations that beautifully matched and enhanced the narrative-text. In Jake’s Gigantic List we get to know young Jake who is about to celebrate his birthday in a few days. And since he is described by his parents and family as the “kid who has everything” it is difficult to give him the perfect present – Jake of course feels differently since “His dad never gave him the coolest things” such as a pet crocodile for instance, or a robot who would clean up the mess in his room. Fair enough.
And so Jake’s father gave him this task of writing down the stuff that he would not mind having for his birthday. As the days progress, the list becomes longer and even more fantastical (nope, no ‘shirts’ anywhere in his numbered list, nosiree). Some of the things he has written down include: “my own beach” “a good mood tablet for teachers” and a “friendly pirate.”
When his Aunty Lyn who came for dinner one evening asked to see his list, she was flabbergasted to note that there was no ‘book’ anywhere in Jake’s wishlist. He explained that he does not need it since “I’ve already got one of those.” This statement not only made Aunty Lyn laugh, it made me laugh as well. Being a book-addict, I could not get enough of booksbooksbooks – and would scrounge around discounted book shops, spend hours on libraries, and run my hands over the expensive brand new books in local bookstores.
Aunty Lyn, being a bibliophile herself (a woman after my own heart, that’s for sure), decided to pick Jake up one afternoon from school and lo-and-behold brought him to the exciting world of the bookstore where dragons, piranhas, whales could be found within the pages of various books if you only knew where to find them. 😉 Initially Jake felt “ripped off” but soon lost himself – immersed in the fantastical world that only books can bring. What Jake eventually received for his birthday, I shall leave for you to discover.
Teachers/educators would also be happy to note that there is also another thorough Teachers’ Notes that go along with Jake’s Gigantic List that includes some pointers/guidelines that teachers can use for pre-reading, during reading and after-reading activities.
Q and A with Ken Spillman
I understand that Jake has his own website! Woohoo! And that there is a series devoted to Jake and his imaginative adventures (there is Jake’s Monster Mess and Jake’s Balloon Blast and three upcoming Jake books as well). Did you originally envision Jake’s character to be a series for early readers?
Yes, most certainly. You commented on the issue of ‘Australian voice’ earlier, and I decided it was time for me to lose some of that and take my stories to new audiences outside Australia. A character-driven, ideas-driven series seemed the best way to do that, and I spent a lot of time looking at what was selling in international markets before creating Jake. I also took care to keep the language simple, and to make sure the stories would lend themselves to being highly visual.
Apart from Jake’s having the gift of imagination and his magical spirit, what do you think is it about him that appeals to young readers?
I think you’ve summed it up – imagination and spirit. It’s as simple as that. His qualities enable him to have heaps of fun, but also get into trouble. Sometimes I think of Jake this way – his ideas are bigger than his head. That’s how I have always been, and there’s a bit of that about every kid.
Do share with us a little bit about your creative collaboration with illustrator Chris Nixon. How did this partnership come about? Do you meet with him often to brainstorm about ideas concerning Jake?
Our Australian publisher chose Chris. He was asked to produce some Jake character sketches and I saw that he had nailed it straight away. He ‘gets’ Jake, and after getting to know Chris I see that he’s also an ideas man. Jake, Chris and I all think big! As the series has progressed, I’ve got to know Chris well but we don’t brainstorm. I create the stories, then he creates the visuals.
I noted that there are three books coming very soon (Jake’s Great Game, Jake’s Big Idea, and Jake’s Concert Horror) – what should Jake’s fans expect from these three lovely books? Are there more on the way?
Jake’s Great Game is out now in Australia and Chris is working on illustrations for Jake’s Concert Horror. There will definitely be more Jake books but our problem right now is that our Australian publisher is battling to keep up with us. The series is published by Scholastic in India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore and it is likely that the first publication of future Jake books will occur outside Australia. Chris Nixon and I have also entered into an agreement with a transmedia producer, and we will be seeing Jake on other platforms in future. Animations, games, apps for iPhone/iPad etc are all part of this discussion, along with merchandise.
Thank you so much Ken for sharing all this with us. Do watch out for our final post where we talk about Ken Spillman’s Love is a UFO. Click on the links to be taken to Part One and Part Two of our Ken Spillman special (tongue-twister, ey?).