Teen novel hopes to send barriers tumbling down
IT has been 10 meticulous years in the making but it was all worth it when a local headteacher unveiled her debut novel.
Milne's Primary headteacher Kim Karam is the proud creator of Tumbling, a a Shetland-based booked aimed at P7-aged youngsters designed for use in the classroom.
The book, which draws heavily on Ms Karam's knowledge of Unst where she lived for many years after her family moved there when she was five, follows the story of Robbie, who finds himself on Shetland after his mother moves there from urban London.
The grey, bleak emptiness of the remote island mirrors his own inner feelings which have been brought about by tragedy.
As well as being an engaging story in its own right, Ms Karam, who has been teaching for 20 years, said she had specifically addressed a number of key subjects which were often not deeply engaged with in school, or which teachers felt were often difficult to broach in class. These include mental health and childhood depression, death of a loved one, the importance of nature and outdoor learning, the value of inter-generational relationships and coping with change.
Ms Karam told the Advertiser: "Tumbling has been 10 years in the making and I'm delighted to see it published.
"It took a lot of research to ensure accuracy and I'm grateful to my sister for casting a critical eye over it.
"Writing a book is something I've always wanted to do but there's a bit if a jump between wanting to write something and actually sitting sown and doing it.
"I thought I should do a book which covered a lot of the issues which were coming up in class with the kids, such as mental health, death of a loved one and coping with change. A lot of the books which are out there are very city-centred, which can make it harder for children in rural areas to relate to them.
"Similarly, having lived and worked in the Central Belt for years I know that there are many children in urban areas who've never seen a loch or the seashore.
"It's been fascinating identifying the gaps in existing novels for children.
"I also thought I'd make the book as accessible as possible to all kids – for example, those who have EAL [English as an Additional Language] or dyslexia often can't access reading the same – so at the back of the book there's a simplified version. It allows them to follow the same story and talk about the book in class."
Ms Karam said she has had a very positive reaction to the novel, with many people telling her it captured their childhoold while others have piked up the importance of fostering inter-generational relations.
"Life seems to be getting really complicated for for young people these days with the likes of social media and so on," she continued.
"There's so much pressure on them to understand an adult world.
"Having a book like Tumbling which deals with issues like mental health or death of a loved one it gives children a chance to talk about a character and what they're going through when they don' want to talk about their own problems."
A teacher's manual accompanies the book for school use.
Although written with the classroom in mind, Tumbling stands alone as a novel in its own right, with Mr Karam saying she hoped that it would find its way into libraries in due course.
Tumbling is available in Waterstone's book store in Elgin and also on Amazon's Kindle.