This post was written by Sarah Rees
Despite there being a wealth of children’s literature in this book-hungry world, Australian teacher-cum-author Jane Tara became acutely aware of a gap in the market when she trotted around the globe with her young son. “I lived overseas for 14 years,” explains Jane, “and during that time I worked at various international schools. It occurred to me that there were an enormous number of these ‘global kids’ at international schools around the world, and yet no one was telling their story.”
Stories are, in Jane’s opinion, a vital way for expat children to adjust and prepare for a new life abroad, and books that focus their tales around expat youngsters may encourage their real-life counterparts to engage more with books, as they discover the pleasure in reading about characters just like them. Thanks to her first-hand experience of working with these children and her experience as a writer, Jane decided she was well-positioned to offer this much-needed literary form to the “global kids” of the world, and what started as an idea in 2010 has now become a business with a cute and catchy name: Itchee Feet.
This publishing enterprise – spearheaded by Jane and her partner Dominique – and the various fiction books they produce are focused on the Feet Family, an expat family of seven. The family’s adventures are documented in a range of story books targeting different age ranges and encompassing the various countries the Feet family find themselves in.
“Travel fiction for kids is an entirely new genre,” says Jane. “We spent a great deal of time developing the formula and working out what was the best way to introduce a country and a culture to a child. We decided that great stories were the key to each culture.”
Their first product is a series of stories focused on Bella and Burton – the young Feet twins – and targets 7-11 year old readers with adventures that occur in such expat destinations as Japan and Australia. While Jane is a writer herself, she felt her skills were not best suited to the target age group, and so enlisted the help of an author friend Stephen Skelton, who currently works for an international school in Japan.
“We’ve developed the Bella & Burton series together,” explains Jane. “Stephen really is such an amazing writer. He has an incredible knowledge of myths and legends.”
Jane has been thrilled with the product, especially at how “Stephen has combined his love of myths and legends with his Maori storytelling roots, bringing a fresh twist to some of the world’s greatest tales.”
The Bella and Burton series is already available in paperback and digital form, and is set to run to ten volumes. Meanwhile, Jane and her partner Dominique also have plenty more titles in the pipeline: Jane has already penned a series called The Daisy Diaries, following the experience of the teenage Feet daughter, and they are also looking beyond fiction books as a means of supporting and educating expat youngsters.
“We’re also developing our non-fiction range; we already have the travel activity book, Around the World in 80 Ways, which has sold well and received excellent reviews. Next up are our children’s travel guides, and we’re very excited about them.”
What started as an ambitious idea – discussed, suitably, on a flight to Slovenia – has developed into a reality, and the Feet Family and their various adventures are set to become bestsellers among expat children who have, up till now, been somewhat overlooked by the literary world.
“Travel is educational, there’s no doubt about it,” concludes Jane, “but the books we’re creating take the experience a step further. The reader becomes excited and engaged because they know something about the place they’re visiting. They’ve already been there, in their minds, with the characters.”
Not only can these books encourage expat children to read more, they are also a superb way of helping children adjust to a life spent constantly on the move.
The company is based in Australia, but books can be ordered and delivered to all corners of the globe, or downloaded onto computers and iPads. For more information on Itchee Feet and their products, visit www.itcheefeet.com.au.
Source: The Expat July 2012
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