Creating a living and breathing story and building a complete, convincing, three-dimensional world around it; portraying rounded and thought-out characters; writing without it seeming like you are trying too hard; writing a story that seems to have always existed but never put to paper.
How does one do that? My first answer: I have no idea. I can recognize beauty when I see it, but I don’t believe in a magic formula. I only know how to try to write well. My second answer: You need to have talent to write well, but that’s not enough; you must have integrity.
About ten years ago, I published a short children’s book in Israel about a group of kids, written entirely from the perspective of Julie, the owner of Shakshuka, a little dog with big adventures. The book quickly became a series that has sold 150,000 copies thus far, and has been translated and published in France, Spain and Brazil. The first three books in the series were recently published in the United States as one book, under the title Dog Trouble.
I'm not sure I was able to do half of the things I mentioned in the first paragraph. If only... At any rate, I hope I write with integrity. In other words, the protagonists of my books are not perfect in any way: Julie is jealous of the new popular girl who recently arrived at her school; insecure Effie is jealous of almost everybody; cynical Brody mocks Adam's stutter; Danny is a bit violent at first, although the conflict between him and the other children takes on more a sophisticated form later in the series; and even the cat adopted by Julie’s is described as ‘a really evil cat.’
And yet Julie and her friends are brimming with joie de vivre and drive, and a sense of confidence that allows them to be playful and inventive and imaginative. They thrive in an imperfect world with evil cats – which means they can come to terms with problems that don’t necessarily have an immediate solution.
True, there is also hostility. Many times, hostility exists alongside with love. Anyone who thinks it is possible to raise children in an environment free of hostility or conflict is simply lying to themselves. You cannot spare children pain; you can only spare them literary representations of it.
Here, I return to the second answer I gave to the question: Integrity. Integrity is vital not only for a writer who hopes to establish a three-dimensional reality in his writing but also for the children reading it. Otherwise, in the name of political correctness, children are told that someone who behaves well will always be rewarded, that the wicked are always punished, and that the rejected will without a doubt have some sort of curative experience.
There is no limit to the manipulative practices of well-intentioned adults in children's literature. There is an underlying desire to “improve” the child, to socialize him, to impart a life lesson, to hide and protect him from the real world.
The point is children have an inbuilt lie detector. When you try to sell them a sermon dressed as a story, they shut down emotionally. They may enjoy the plot, but the moral will pass right over their heads.
In short, children understand nuance. They are able to empathize with complex characters rather than with saintly, stock characters. Simplistic messages and manipulation are an insult to their intelligence. When children are exposed to quality literature, they are likely to grow up to read quality literature. And most importantly: beauty has value in and of itself, and children, just like everyone else, have the right to enjoy it. Just as they have the right to read of evil cats without someone jumping to their defense.
About the Book
Readers who have graduated from Junie B. Jones and Ivy & Bean will fall head over heels for feisty Julie and her troublesome new dog.
Julie has only had her dog for two weeks, but she is already causing all sorts of problems. For starters, she is missing! Julie suspects the school bully Danny must be behind it. But it will take some detective work, the help of Julie’s friends, and maybe even her munchkin twin brothers to bring her new pet home.
Wonderfully sassy and endlessly entertaining, the escapades of Julie and her dog are just beginning!
Julie’s adventures have sold across the globe and been translated into five languages. Popular filmmaker and children’s author Galia Oz effortlessly captures the love of a girl and her dog.
Galia Oz was born in Kibbutz Hulda, Israel, in 1964. She studied film and Television in Tel Aviv University 1984-87.
Her award winning series of 5 books titled DOG TROUBLE was published in France, Spain and Brazil – and recently in the US by CROWN BOOKS Random House. The series is a steady seller in Israel for over 10 years (selling over 150,000 copies).
Oz has directed several documentaries, all screened in international film festivals, and in Israeli leading television channels.
Over the years, Galia Oz has been meeting thousands of readers in Israeli elementary schools, and taught creative writing and classic children's literature to kids in public libraries.
Galia Oz is married and has two kids, a dog and a cat, and they all live in Ramat Hasharon, just outside Tel-Aviv.