We’re excited today to talk to Aussie children's author Kieren Fitz-Gibbon. Kieren has created a hilarious and entertaining adventure series centered around a magic trampoline.
Tell us about your books?
Volume 1 - The Magic Trampoline (the Original)
The Magic Trampoline is the original of a series of currently two books. The books are the actual bedtime story of my four real life children, Harry, Charlie, Billy and Max, that I decided I would turn into a picture book.
In the book, the boy’s names become Haz, Chaz, Baz and Maz. A lightning storm turns the boys front yard trampoline into a magical, space travelling, bouncing fun park (complete with remote control). After an accidental bounce into the sky, the boys (with their dad) launch into space and land on the tiniest planet in the Universe – Planet Tiny. There are wonderfully colourful and amazingly friendly aliens on Planet Tiny, and so the boys make friends. They also play a fantastic game of intergalactic soccer (soccer is the boys favourite sport)!
The aliens are so friendly however, that one of them (Misty) sneaks into dad’s backpack when everyone else is saying farewell. The boys only see this when they arrive back home, and hence have a huge problem to solve. One of the main themes of the series is that wherever the adventures go, something, or someone will always sneak back home – after Volume 8 or 9, it is going to be crowded in the cubby house.
The question for Volume 2 is - how will they get Misty the Alien back to her home on Planet Tiny?
Volume 2 – The Smelly Penguin Poop-house (the sequel)
The adventure continues, and in their attempt to return Misty to Planet Tiny, the boys misfire on the Magic Trampoline, and land at the South Pole instead. As well as being extremely cold, the lads find thousands of magical smelly talking penguins (with some wonderfully strange haircuts).
The boys weren’t dressed for the South Pole and are freezing cold. To help, the smelly penguins build a house around them by climbing onto each other. Inside the completed penguin house, the boys find it remarkably warm, but with penguins above and around, the poop soon starts flying – and everyone knows, penguin poop is extremely smelly!
The boys bust of the (now) very smelly penguin poop-house and are invited by the penguins to play a game of soccer (yes, the boys love soccer). With Misty’s help, the boys win the game!
Once again, while saying goodbye to their newfound friends, one of the penguins sneaks into dad’s backpack, and lands at home with the boys in their front yard.
Now the boys have a major problem – how to get Misty the Alien, and the smelly magic little penguin home?
Why did you want to write this story?
The Magic Trampoline was born out of a bedtime story I told to my two older children, Harry and Charlie. And then to the two younger children, Billy and Max. Harry and Charlie found each story so much fun that they kept asking again and again for a new adventure. So I told them many stories. When I came home from work one day, they asked me where the magic button was on our trampoline, and I realised that they believed our trampoline could be magic! After that moment, I decided that I wanted to see the story as a children's book. I hoped my boys would get great excitement from seeing their story in a real book. Hopefully also other kids could join in the adventures that The Magic Trampoline offered.
I hope that all my boys continue to see it in a wonderful way even when they are fully grown and remind themselves of some of the crazy times they had when they were little – and maybe a little selfishly – me too.
What's been the best reaction from a reader so far?
One of the mums of a boy who has read The Magic Trampoline tells me her boy loves the books so much he sleeps with both books under his pillow. Recently a young girl after having been read the book whispered to me “I know what happens – the alien sneaks home” – she is an actual Super Fan. I love hearing this type of feedback, and there has been lots of great feedback from mums about their children loving the books. It is great to hear and always brings a smile to my face.
Where do you find your inspiration?
It was how real my boys thought the story was that drove me to turn the first story into a book. I realised that their imaginations were fantastic, and I wanted that to continue. I also want the boys to understand that in life you can do just about anything you want to – write a book, fly a plane, be a doctor, or anything else. Plus – it will be an awesome legacy for them as well.
I also gain a real sense of satisfaction that I have added to the world – even in the tiniest way, and made some kids lives more enriched.
What's the most fun part of being an author?
The feedback I receive is amazing and drives me to get going on the next book. Having people ask me when Volume 3 is going to be finished is a real buzz!
Doing readings – either at a bookstore or better still at an early childhood centre – although nerve racking, can turn out to be awesome fun. Seeing the reactions of little ones never gets boring. You do have to have a thick skin though. Some of the reactions are of complete boredom to say the least. You can’t take it personally though.
What's your tip for parents to encourage reading?
One of the first things I wanted parents to do with The Magic Trampoline was to use the storyline as the basis for their own adventures they could tell with their children at their bedtime. I remember lots of nights where my boys wanted a magic trampoline story, so I would ask them to tell me where are we going, who do we meet, what do we do, who comes home with us, and how do we get them back to their homes. There are a million different adventures to be had and the fun you can have with your kids is amazing. I hope it has helped in building the bond I have with my boys, and I highly recommend it to everyone with small kids.
What's your favourite children's book of all time and why?
“The Gruffalo” must be up there. I must have read that book a thousand times to my boys! They seemed to love it, so I kept reading it to them. Another favourite is “It Could Have Been Worse”. I love the learning a child may / may not take from that book.
What would you say to someone thinking of writing their first book?
When you research a little into children’s books you find it’s a massive field – so it’s difficult to sell books. Luckily, I never once thought about money when I wrote the first book. My motive was to turn our bedtime story into a real book. If you have the motivation that makes you want to spend valuable time writing a book (that isn’t money) then you can perhaps succeed. I am at the start of my journey after 2 years. I would love to be continuing in 10-15 years sharing stories like The Magic Trampoline
Kieren Fitz-Gibbon lives in Newcastle NSW with his wife and four children – all boys, aged 2, 5, 7, and 9. Kieren has told hundreds of different Magic Trampoline adventure bedtime stories for his children. He focuses on ensuring the children use their imagination by asking lots of questions during the adventure. Many suggestions are incorporated into the stories, and hence the boy's imaginations run wild.
Kieren holds a degree in engineering and an associated Masters Degree. But these don't go near to qualifying him for story telling! Kieren continues to raise his four children - with his wonderful wife and mother of four. And bedtime story time is always a wonderful experience!
You can find out more about Kieren by following him on Facebook. You can find his books here.
Where to Next?
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