Jack by Helen Victoria Bishop, and illustrated by Simon Murray
Jack is a sensitive book to inspire and support children through the difficulty of parent separation and divorce.
Jack is really quite sad and alone is his bedroom considering the situation between his mummy and daddy. He like many children in a break up situation feels that it might be his fault. Jack speaks of his worries to his loyal friend, “Black Cat” who is able in his magical way to talk Jack through his concerns and worries and provide him with some practical advice on how to make life a little easier, all of which make Jack feel more confident and reassured.
Qualifying as a solicitor in 1999 I immediately specialised in divorce, ancillary and private Children Act cases. I am passionate about the welfare of young children and during my years of practice I became frustrated as to the lack of literature to help children deal with the issues that surround divorce and separation. Solicitors can use their best endeavours to achieve the best arrangements for children whether through court or negotiation, and family coaches, therapists and counsellors are available in the community to help children and families, which are all fantastic. However there was really a need for a new, fresh and tangible object that was modern and appealing to children to hold and read.
With this in mind I wrote “Jack” which is an illustrated children’s book for children between the ages of 4 and 11. I wanted to create a story that posed questions to encourage young children to engage with parents, guardians or teachers, about their feelings. Older children who read alone are able to use the book to help them reflect and realise that they are not alone and that feelings of blame and confusion are quite normal. It was also important to create a story that would capture children’s imaginations, provide comfort, warmth and reassurance that they are not the cause of the separation.
It is impossible to write a piece of literature for a child that ticks all boxes; each child’s circumstance and emotions are vastly different. I therefore used questions that are most commonly expressed by children, such as “Could I have cleaned my room?”, “Not been so grumpy?”, or “Done all of my homework?”. The book goes on to deal with practical issues, such as having two houses to live in, or leaving a sports kit at the wrong house, and being distracted at school, all of which make a child worried and feeling different.
Jack’s cat talks him through all of these emotions and difficulties and provides soothing and practical answers to help him. At the end of the book Jack is much more contented and accepting that whilst the situation is difficult at the moment it will get better.
I also wanted to avoid the book being obvious that it dealt with parental separation, and so the front cover and title do not convey this in any way. Whilst the book emphasises that separation in families is not unusual, some children may not be at the stage of wanting to be open about their situation at home. The front cover is therefore appealing yet calming with no connotations that it is about separation, and it is for this reason that it is simply named “Jack”. Any child can therefore read the book at school, a library or any other public place, without it being obvious what the the book is about.
The book has been illustrated by Simon Murray, an established children’s author and illustrator. The beautiful illustrations cleverly show Jack’s sadness and vulnerability whilst at the same time provide a calm and hopeful scene.
Helen Victoria Bishop
Ruth, Wikivorce's Community Manager reviewed the book for the Magazine and said:
Jack is a picture story book aimed at 4 to 11 year olds whose parents have separated or are separating. Jack is a little boy who is confused and upset over his parents’ separation; he thinks he may be to blame for the separation, and feels alone and wonders if his parents still love him. Black Cat is a talking cat, who chats with Jack and offers explanations and reassurances to Jack, and encourages him to speak to Mum or Dad when he feels sad or confused. “The key to life is that you are loved” says Black Cat- a simple but profound statement. With his wise and calm approach and words, Black Cat gives Jack the confidence and support he needs at this very difficult time.
Charming, sensitively written and reassuring, this book is one that children will be able to read on their own, as well as with Mum or Dad, and draw comfort and reassurance from the wise Black Cat. Children will be able to relate to Jack both through the words and the eloquent illustrations, and recognise the emotions, fear and concerns he talks about with Black Cat. This book will one children either with or without parents or/and grandparents can read time and time again, each time drawing comfort and encouragement from Jack and his Black Cat.
"Jack" provides parents (and grandparents) with a wonderful opportunity to discuss with their young children the delicate subject of family break-up and to discuss the emotions the children may be experiencing, while following Jack's own journey and seeing him grow in confidence.
For more information please visit www.jackandblackcat.com. The book is available through the website, Amazon and Waterstones priced £6.99
Wikivorce has three copies of Jack to give away to registered members, if you would like to win a copy, please send rubytuesday a private message by 30th September 2015. Winners drawn at random.