Monday, 4 September 2017

Guest Post - Father Figures By Jeff Norton - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books (Stomp School)


It's great to have one of my favourite authors on the blog today. With back to school looming, it's time to get the lovely picture books out to share with your kids or 'little monsters'. Jeff has already published a fantastic series, that I loved, which was in the futuristic world of 'MetaWars'. However, he has now turned his written hand into entertaining the younger ones with a fantastic picture book called "STOMP SCHOOL". It's a fantastically endearing story about a set of MONSTERS. 


You will meet Rikki, the little kaiju who just loves to build things. Find out what happens on his first day at Stomp School - he is in for a few surprises! It's a very bright and colourful book which is full of humour and fun specifically aimed at children from the age of 3 to 6. Jeff has written a guest post to give us some insight behind this book, which was published early August 2017 by Caterpillar Books.


It’s fair to say I’m a feminist. 


I believe that when women have equal access to opportunity we are all better off. One of the things that’s struck me since becoming a father is how pervasive gender stereotypes are in our society, starting with the very first exposure to pop culture that children encounter: picture books.

As the father of two young boys, I’ve been a voracious consumer and reader of picture books for seven years now. And I’ve noticed an assumed sexism in many of the books whereby mothers hold down the household and dads hold down an out-of-home job. Surely this normalises role expectations for much later in life. My major observation of parenting couples is that typically the man “klutzes out” of domestic duties while the woman is forced to be more competent in order to compensate. Thus, the burden of domestic life falls largely on female shoulders.

In the UK, the myth of the “useless husband” is so dominant, that’s a widely accepted norm that allows chaps to be let off the hook from domestic roles ranging from changing nappies to reading bedtime stories. But the useless husband myth holds back young women from achieving their potential because there is an often-unstated expectation that upon becoming mothers they will take on well over 50% of the domestic tasks. It’s an in-built sexism that stifles achievement and, I believe, economic potential. If dudes stepped up at home, Sheryl Sandberg wouldn’t have to urge women to ‘lean in’ at work. 


So, in moving from writing YA and middle-grade book to mounting my first picture book, I wanted to present a father figure who was engaged in the child’s life and pulling his own Godzilla-scale share of the domestic duties. 

The daddy kaiju in the book readies Rikki for school and pushes the pram. He still stomps off to Tokyo on a professional rampage, but then he’s back in time to for school pick up.


How does he do it?
He probably works late, after the kaiju kids have gone to bed. Maybe he “hides” the school run from his boss by tacking it onto an out-of-office meeting with King Kong? But his commitment to the kids allows his spouse to also have a fulfilling and important career decimating San Francisco. As a two-career kaiju family, daddio pulls his weight so that his partner can soar. 


It may not be a lot, but my hope is that since Stomp School portrays a father who is engaged and competent, we can start to make that role the norm.



Jeff Norton is the author of numerous books for older readers including the award-winning METAWARS series, the laugh-out-loud MEMOIRS OF A NEUROTIC ZOMBIE books, and is the creator and co-author of the best-selling PRINCESS PONIES chapter books (together with Julie Sykes, writing as “Chloe Ryder”). STOMP SCHOOL is his first picture book, which is brilliantly illustrated by artist Leo Antolini. Jeff is the father of two young boys, who inspired STOMP SCHOOL. 
Jeff is on the web at www.jeffnorton.com and social media as: @thejeffnorton.
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