Scholastic India

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A HUGE thank you to all the schools that welcomed Oscar to India in February!

A HUGE thank you to all the schools that welcomed Oscar to India in February!

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When I reached home after my February visit to India, I looked at the figures. Seven cities, thirty-nine schools, more than seven thousand children. Add to that the New Delhi World Book Fair, a transmedia workshop sponsored by the Australia-India Council and an awesome festival – Kala Ghoda in Mumbai – and it was a crowded month.

It was also joyous. I’ve visited countless schools in many different countries – Australia, naturally, but also China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Oman. It’s always fun, but nowhere is it more fun than in India.

Indian kids are simply the best when it comes to being truly engaged with an interaction, and they are simply the best when it comes to asking questions. I’ve come to expect this with my Jake series, and talking about I Am Oscar with older classes was just as wonderful.

A question often asked was this: “Why did you write I Am Oscar?” That gave me a chance to talk about my favourite subject – imagination.

It also made me think about my Jake character in the Jake series and identify a thread that runs through my work generally. But whereas Jake simply has fun with his imagination, characters like Oscar and Advaita (in Advaita The Writer) depend upon their imaginations to survive. Oscar is funny, sure. But most of all he’s a creative guy who allows himself flights of fancy. To me, that’s about resilience – the capacity to work through difficult times by releasing the ‘reality valve’ sometimes.

A psychiatrist features in I Am Oscar and, although he doesn’t say this in the novel, he would know that a famous psychiatrist named Viktor Frankl – a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp – said that our ability to see beyond present circumstances allows for the possibility of hope. This capacity to imagine, then, becomes a life tool, a survival mechanism.

Speaking to 12, 13 and 14 year-olds on my India tour, I told them that their lives were getting more complicated and that, over the coming years, they would feel many stresses and anxieties – about study, careers, parents, relationships. I encouraged them to have fun with their imaginations, and to remember it’s the greatest power they have.

During and since the February trip I’ve received some lovely emails. Here’s one:

Nishant here. You came to our school in India (Hiranandani Foundation School)… You highlighted your book “I am Oscar”. And thank you for that ’cause, boy… I tell u I just finished reading it and I am sooooo impressed… I even feel like Oscar Is a real guy. I’m sure that somehow this book is going to change my life. Many thanks!!

Well, thank YOU, Nishant – and thanks to the many other students who have written to me.

Huge thanks to the teachers and principals who made the interactions possible, and most of all, thanks to the generous and hardworking Scholastic representatives who looked after me so well everywhere I went.

 

Ken Spillman

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