The Adventures of Jasper and Sharkcrock in Magictopia by Jasper and Justin Harrison.
Christchurch: Harrison Family Press (2015).
Reviewed by Anna Smith.
Any father and son writing project has got to be good, right? Since desktop publishing has made getting a product into the world relatively easy, new writers can feel confident that even if they self-publish at least someone out there is going to read their work. This is certainly the case for the Harrisons, a father and son combo who have together written the first in a planned series of adventures in a world where the sky is red and the grass, blue: ‘I know they’re not on the cover but I thought it might freak your Mum out – … ?’ (p 5). Magictopia appears to be the invention of Jasper, 6 at the time of writing. Clearly, Jasper’s childish imagination has been encouraged to bloom by his dad and other family supporters. There’s nothing more rewarding for a young writer than to see their words become print thus accessible technology has a real place to play in launching would-be writers into public space. For this reason I applaud the Harrison Family Press because to read and delight in a creative child’s stories is a wonderful thing to be able to do. As to whether The Adventures of Jasper and Sharkcrock in Magictopia is worth reading by many others, however, I do not find this to be the case. The story shows limited signs of skilled construction and story-telling. And why should it? The Harrisons have told it like it is: the book is the result of the world-making of a young boy and it shows. But why should it need to do anything else? Jasper may become a serious writer one day – and through publishing his story, Justin has given him the opportunity to come as close as possible to that fantasy. Equally, Jasper may not become a writer at all but a policeman, a farmer or a university lecturer. If this kind of encouragement could be extended to all children Jasper’s age who loved writing stories, the experience of growing up ought to show them a world more playful, exciting and nourishing.
Dr. Anna Smith teaches mostly children’s and young adult literature in the English programme at the University of Canterbury. She has written on New Zealand artists and writers as well as publishing short stories and a work of fiction.
First published takahe 87